Jose Mourinho wanted to sign Borussia Dortmund and Belgium midfielder Axel Witsel in the summer, but Manchester United’s board opted to sign Fred from Shakhtar Donetsk instead, according to ESPN‘s Mark Ogden.
The Brazilian, who arrived in the summer for £52.7m as the club’s only major signing of the window, has only started five Premier League games so far this season.
Mourinho claimed over the international break that the main reason he travelled to watch Belgium’s 2-0 win over Iceland was to closely monitor the progress of Romelu Lukaku.
But according to Ogden, after Lukaku was ruled not fit enough to play, Mourinho remained behind to keep a close eye on Witsel, a player he wanted more than Fred in the summer.
The diminutive frame of Fred, more of a technician than a bulldozer, does indeed feel inimical to what Mourinho usually wants in a midfielder. And his lack of proper opportunities over the first three months of his Old Trafford career certainly suggests Mourinho does not fully trust him.
Witsel, on the other hand, stands at 6ft 1 and feels like the closest possible double of Marouane Fellaini available at the highest level of the game. No wonder the Portuguese wanted him.